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DOCUMENT RESUME 



ED 471 785 



CS 511 592 



AUTHOR 

TITLE 

PUB DATE 
NOTE 



PUB TYPE 
EDRS PRICE 
DESCRIPTORS 



IDENTIFIERS 



Barsema^ Michelle; Harms, Louann; Pogue, Carol 
Improving Reading Achievement through the Use of Multiple 
Reading Strategies . 

2002-05-00 

83p.; Master of Arts Research Project, Saint Xavier 
University and SkyLight Professional Development Field-Based 
Program. 

Dissertations/Theses (040) — Reports - Research (143) 

EDRS Price MF01/PC04 Plus Postage. 

Action Research; Family School Relationship; ^Instructional 
Effectiveness; Primary Education; Reading Achievement ; 

* Reading Improvement; * Reading Instruction; * Reading 
Strategies; Sustained Silent Reading 
Accelerated Reader Program 



ABSTRACT 

This report describes a program for increasing primary 
students’ reading achievement as indicated by scores on reading series theme 
tests, state standards achievement test scores, achievement test scores, 
report card grades, and students’ involvement in reading. The targeted 
population consisted of primary elementary school students in a Midwestern, 
rural, middle class community. The problems of reading achievement were 
documented through data revealed on pretests administered to the targeted 
students. Analysis of probable cause data revealed that students exhibited a 
lack of achievement related to insufficient reading practice, poor fluency, 
choosing inappropriate reading materials, lack of motivation, disengagement 
with text, and poor role modeling. A review of solution strategies suggested 
by knowledgeable others, combined with an analysis of the problem setting, 
resulted in the selection of four major categories of intervention: an 
implementation of the Accelerated Reader program, increased sustained silent 
reading time, development of a buddy reading system, and establishment of a 
home-to-school reading program. Post-intervention data indicated an increase 
in the primary students’ reading achievement as shown by a meaningful 
improvement of the Woodcock Reading Test scores, the state standards 
achievement test scores, the STAR reading test scores, and the pilot Snapshot 
of Early Literacy test. Appendixes contain a student reading log, a ”Be a 
Star Reader” form, and a Reading Star chart. (Contains 68 references, and 7 
tables and 3 figures of data.) (Author/RS) 



11 592 



IMPROVING READING ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH 
THE USE OF MULTIPLE READING STRATEGIES 



Michelle Barsema 
Louann Harms 
Carol Pogue 



An Action Research Project Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the 
School of Education in Partial Fulfillment of the 
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Teaching and Leadership 



PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE AND 
disseminate THIS MATERIAL HAS 
BEEN GRANTED BY 



TO THE EDUCATroNAL RESOURCES 
information center (ERIC) 



Saint Xavier University & SkyLight 



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION 
Office of Educational Research and improvement 

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION 
CENTER (ERIC) 

□ This documertt has been reproduced as 
received from the person or organization 
originating it. 

□ Minor changes have been made to 
improve reproduction quality. 



• Points of view or opinions stated in this 
document do not necessarily represent 
official OERI position or policy. 



Field-Based Master’s Program 
Chicago, Illinois 
May, 2002 



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ABSTRACT 

This report describes a program for increasing primary student’s reading achievement as 
indicated by scores on reading series theme tests, state standards achievement test scores, 
achievement test scores, report card grades, and students’ involvement in reading. The 
targeted population consisted of primary elementary school students in a Midwestern, 
rural, middle class community. The problems of reading achievement were documented 
through data revealed on pretests administered to the targeted students. 

Analysis of probable cause data revealed that students exhibited a lack of achievement 
related to insufficient reading practice, poor fluency, choosing inappropriate reading 
materials, lack of motivation, disengagement with text, and poor role modeling. 

A review of solution strategies suggested by knowledgeable others, combined with an 
analysis of the problem setting, resulted in the selection of four major categories of 
intervention: an implementation of the Accelerated Reader program, increased sustained 
silent reading time, development of a buddy reading system, and establishment of a 
home-to-school reading program. 

Postintervention data indicated an increase in the primary students’ reading achievement 
as shown by a meaningful improvement of the Woodcock Reading Test scores, the state 
standards achievement test scores, the STAR reading test scores, and the pilot Snapshot 
of Early Literacy test. 




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SIGNATURE PAGE 



This project was approved by 





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TABLE OF CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 1 - PROBLEM STATEMENT AND CONTEXT 1 

General Statement of the Problem 1 

Immediate Problem Context 1 

The Surrounding Community 9 

National Context of the Problem 14 

CHAPTER 2 - PROBLEM DOCUMENTATION 18 

Problem Evidence 18 

Probable Causes 25 

Solutions 26 

CHAPTER 3 - THE SOLUTION STRATEGY 28 

Literature Review 28 

Project Objectives and Processes 46 

Project Action Plan 47 

Methods of Assessment 50 

CHAPTER 4 -PROJECT RESULTS 52 

Historical Description of the Intervention 52 

Presentation and Analysis of Results 57 

Conclusions and Recommendations 65 

REFERENCES 70 

APPENDICIES 75 




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CHAPTER 1 

PROBLEM STATEMENT AND CONTEXT 
General Statement of the Problem 

Many of the students of the targeted kindergarten and third grade classes 
exhibited below grade level reading achievement. Evidence for the existence of the 
problem included reading series theme tests, state standards achievement test scores, 
achievement test scores, report card reading grades, and teacher observations. This 
problem was also evidenced by an observed lack of participation in the Accelerated 
Reader program offered in individual classrooms. 

Immediate Problem Context 

Local Setting 

The specific school in which the research was conducted had a student enrollment 
of 442 students from prekindergarten through fourth grade. The ethnic background of the 
students included 93.5% White non-Hispanic, 0.6% Black non-Hispanic, 5.6% Hispanic, 
and 0.2% Asian-Pacific Islander. Low-income students accounted for 23.4% of the total 
enrollment. The students in the school who were limited-English proficient made up 
1.1% of the school population (School Report Card, 2000). The attendance rate for the 
school was 96.1%. The student mobility rate was 23.3%. Chronic truancy was not a 
problem at this school (School Report Card, 2000). 




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Kindergarten classes had an average size of 20.3 students. Third grade classes had 
an average size of 22.5 students. At this school 98.5% of students’ parents or guardians 
had personal contact with the school staff during the school year. Personal contact 
included parent-teacher conferences, parental visits to school, school visits to home, 
telephone conversations, and written correspondence. 

Faculty and Staff 

The school had a faculty consisting of 27 full-time and 6 half-time certified 
teachers. Of these, three and one half were special education teachers. There was one 
teacher each for art, music, physical education, and learning center. The music teacher 
was shared with the elementary school in Community C. The physical education teacher 
was shared with the elementary school in Community B. The art teacher was shared with 
the elementary schools in all three communities. One full-time and one half-time Title I 
teachers served students in the building. One speech teacher was in the building full time 
and another speech teacher was shared with the upper elementary school in the district. 
The average number of years of teaching experience for this school was 15.1 years. Just 
over 50% of the faculty had earned a master’s degree. There was one female African 
American teacher and two male teachers employed at this school. The average annual 
salary for teachers in this building was $45,288. 

There were eight full-time extra support personnel. One of these extra support 
employees worked in the learning center. Other extra support personnel were involved in 
the flexible delivery system working primarily in classrooms with special education 
students who have individualized education plans (ffiP). The extra support personnel also 




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helped in the cafeteria during lunch time, supervised students during noon recess, and 
supervised students before school. 

The school had one male principal who had been with the district for 4 years, 
making him one of the most recently employed administrators in the district. His annual 
salary was $61,510, slightly below the district average for administrators. A secretary 
was employed in the school’s office, and a nurse was available throughout the day. The 
school employed 2 full-time and 2 part-time cafeteria workers. A full-time janitor was at 
the school during school hours, and 3 part-time janitors worked outside of the school day. 
The Facility 

The school is a sprawling light brick one-story building initially constructed in 
1964 with two wings and a large gymnasium-cafeteria that included a stage area. An 
addition was made in 1972, which added a learning center and eight classrooms. There 
are 26 full sized classrooms and 6 smaller rooms currently being used as special 
classrooms. The smaller rooms contain classes such as music, special education, and 
special reading. The walls in the building are painted cement block walls with asphalt tile 
floors in the two original wings and terrazzo tile in all entryways. The north wing, which 
is a 1972 addition, has carpeted floors throughout most of the rooms and hallways. 

There were four sets of regular exits with additional exits possible through the 
gym area, library, and kitchen. A security camera was recently added at the front 
entrance. This entrance was the only one unlocked during the day. 

The learning center was an open room divided into a library area with a 
circulation desk at one end, tables and chairs for student instruction in the middle, and a 




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computer lab with 25 computers at the other end of the room. All computers in the 
learning were networked to a main server that provided Internet service. 

Classroom A 

Classroom A was a special education room, a converted storage room with no 
windows. On one side of the length of the room was a blackboard and on the other side 
was a shorter board and a bulletin board. The floor was asphalt tile. A separate heater was 
in place at the back of the room. There was an open strip of six double fluorescent lights 
running down the middle of the room. Items in the room included a wooden teacher’s 
desk, a computer desk, a Power MacG3, a printer, several bookcases, eight student desks 
and chairs, and two study carrels. This room was used as a resource room where 
individual or small groups of students met with the special education teacher for 
individualized help with assignments or for small pullout groups from the main 
classrooms. 

Classroom B 

Classroom B was an average-sized third grade classroom located in the north 
wing of the building. Directly across the hallway was the learning center’s circulation 
desk, girls’ bathroom, boys’ bathroom, and a water fountain. This area of the building 
was a high traffic area because of the use of the bathroom and because of classes entering 
and leaving the learning center area. 

The classroom had four windows located on the west wall that looked out on the 
asphalt parking area where buses loaded. Windows opened by pushing out, and there 
were no screens on them. There were shades at each window, which could be pulled to 




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darken the room for movies, videos, etc. A shelf ran the length of the wall with 
bookshelves underneath. 

The south wall had a chalkboard and large bulletin board with tall wooden 
bookcases on either side. The east wall had a coat closet where students could keep coats, 
boots, book bags, etc. on hooks inside the closet. Doors to the closet opened into the 
classroom. Separate storage compartments were above the closet area. A sink with 
running water and a drinking fountain was beside the closet. There was a small counter 
space next to the sink with a drawer and cupboard below. The rest of this side of the 
room was closed closet or storage area. 

The north end of the room was a movable wall that could be opened to the 
classroom next door. The four sections of the wall each had a chalkboard on them, which 
was used for bulletin board space and for displaying student work. 

The room contained 20 desks and chairs for student us. All books and student 
materials were kept in the desks. Desks were usually arranged in pairs facing the south 
chalkboard. Students could easily move into small groups of three or four to do 
assignments and activities. Several other student desks were used for small group work or 
project areas. At the back of the room was a larger table used for group work. Five 
colorful plastic chairs were used around the table. The teacher’s desk, wooden shelving 
units, and filing cabinets were also in the back of the room. The carpeted floor cut down 
on the noise level in the classroom and allowed for a more comfortable area for students 
to work on the floor when preparing group projects or reading together. 

Equipment in the room included a Mac computer and a printer located at a desk 
station separate from the teacher’s desk. This computer was used by both teacher and 




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students and was networked to the Internet. The room had large pull down maps of the 
United States and the world mounted over the chalkboard and bulletin board. A movie 
screen was also mounted over the chalkboard. An overhead projector was used often. A 
small library area containing primarily paperback books was located in one comer of the 
room. Many of the books had been categorized into small boxes or bins to indicate 
reading levels as defined by a computerized program. A director’s chair was prominently 
located as the “reader’s chair” where students share their own writings and the teacher 
read aloud. Since there was little solid wall space, doors of all the closets were used for 
displaying posters, student work, or word wall charts. 

Classroom C 

Classroom C was a kindergarten classroom located in the east wing of the original 
building. The floor was covered with asphalt tile and there were three rows of fluorescent 
lights. As one walked into the room, there was shelving to the left that held toys and 
games that the students used. To the right of the entrance was a tall metal cabinet that was 
used to store art and craft materials. The back of the cabinet was used as a magnetic wall 
to hold pocket charts where the children checked in each day. Another pocket chart that 
kept track of students that had jobs each week also hung here. 

Upon entering the room, one would find the listening center and the writing 
center. There were two older computers for the children’s use. There were various other 
centers spaced around the room, such as the kitchen center, book center, and rice center. 

Six students could sit at each of the four tables in the middle of the room. One 
more table was used for teacher preparation and small group work. During story time the 
students sat on an area mg. A teacher’s chair and an easel were used during this time. The 





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teacher’s desk was located in the northeast comer of the room. In this area was a metal 
filing cabinet and plastic shelves for teacher’s books. A newer computer was located on 
the east wall. This computer was available for teacher use and at specific times for 
student use. The southeast comer had two metal cabinets for storage. 

A wall of windows on the north had shelving beneath it. Chalkboards covered 
three walls and one built-in cabinet for storage was located on the south wall. The 
bathroom was located in the southeast comer of the room with a sink and water fountain 
directly outside. There was one built-in cabinet for storage on the south wall. 

The walls were covered with print-rich materials. These included number charts, 
days of the week charts, months of the year charts, last name cards, and a learning tree 
that showed specific alphabet letters students had learned. The student’s coat and book 
bag hooks are in the hallway on the outside wall of the room. 

Programs 

Classes were offered to preschool through fourth grade at this school. There were 
two half-day preschool classes. There were three half-day early childhood classes. Four 
half-day kindergarten classes, four first, second, third, and fourth grade classes were 
taught in the building. Classes were also offered in physical education, art, music, 
learning center, and computers to grades one through four. Students were offered 
physical education and music classes twice a week for 30 minute periods. Art classes met 
twice a week for 30 minutes. Learning center and computer classes were taught in 
combination and met three times a week for 30 minutes each. Special classes for 
kindergarten students included art, music, and learning center. Title I classes and speech 
classes were scheduled throughout the day. First through fourth grade used a basal 



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reading series supplemented by big books, novel sets, and paperback books 
recommended by the reading series. 

Several programs were offered at this school to encourage good behavior and to 
recognize students who exhibit good behavior. Monthly student recognition activities 
included scavenger hunts, board game days, kite flying, concerts, and a popcorn and 
movie days. These activities were held for students who met the guidelines established by 
individual classroom teachers. Each teacher communicated expectations and students 
who met or exceeded these expectations were eligible to participate in the activities. 

A gifted consultant visited the building periodically to pull out and work with 
students who had been identified as gifted. A basic character education program was 
offered once a month by the elementary guidance counselor. The guidance counselor also 
worked with individual students on a referral basis. 

A program was instituted to “Catch Students Being Grood.” Teachers and staff 
recognized the exceptionally good actions of students with a certificate, with a picture in 
the local newspaper, and with inclusion in a monthly drawing. The guidance counselor 
supported efforts to recognize students who displayed appropriate character traits with in- 
class instruction and with a weekly drawing. A grant-funded tutorial program was being 
offered to students with academic problems. Small groups of students met with a teacher 
after school once a week for tutoring in needed academic areas (School Improvement 
Plan, 2000). 

The targeted school used a flexible delivery system in which problem-solving 
teams of educators and parents met to determine a need for educational modifications for 
students. These students might have been experiencing academic problems, behavior 




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problems, or both. Title I reading services were provided for students in first through 
fourth grades. Title I was available to students who demonstrated difficulty in reading 
and met qualifying criteria. 

A very active parent organization has helped to sponsor many activities and 
programs. They have provided money to purchase a computerized reading program, 
playground equipment, supplementary funds for teacher supplies, assemblies, and shade 
trees for the playground. 

The local Junior Women’s Club has provided the school with the Reading is 
Fundamental (RIF) program. Students were presented with the opportunity to choose a 
paperback book three times during the school year. 

Parent volunteers were used throughout the school. Parents helped in classrooms, 
read with children, did clerical work for teachers, accompanied classes on field trips, and 
worked in the library. Members of community groups assisted with monthly student 
recognition activities. Within the building there were peer tutoring programs and fourth 
grade students have had the opportunity to read to kindergarten and prekindergarten 
students. 

The school’s mission was to develop the uniqueness of each child: physically, 
emotionally, and artistically. Each child was to be provided the opportunity to become a 
responsible and productive member of society. To achieve this mission, the school 
worked towards a collaborative effort between students, parents, staff, and community. 

The Surrounding Community 

The community in which the target school was located was a small Midwestern 
farming community of approximately 4.250 people. The median age of the population 







was 35.7 years. Twenty-one percent of the population were 65 or older. Residents of the 
community who were under 1 8 years of age made up 27.3% of the population (U. S. 
Census, 1990). 

This community was 96.4% White, 2.8% Hispanic, 0.3% Black, and 0.3% Asian 
or Pacific Islander (U.S. Census, 1990). Adults residing in the community who were high 
school graduates or higher comprised 70.8% of the population. Seven percent of the 
population held a bachelor’s degree, and 4.5% held a graduate degree (Association of 
Commerce, 1999). 

Agriculture and agriculture related businesses play an important role in the 
economy of the community. Retail trade and manufacturing are the largest employment 
sectors. The unemployment rate was 3.2%, and people who were living in the poverty 
range made up 7.5 % of the population. The median household income was $43,436, and 
the median housing value was $73,617 (Association of Commerce, 1999). 

The community had nine different churches, from Apostolic Christian to Church 
of the Nazarene, Church of Christ, and Faith Fellowship. There were Baptist, 
Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, and Lutheran. Religion was a very important part of 
life in this community. 

There were 21 different clubs and organizations available and active in the 
community. These organizations included the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign 
Wars, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H, Lions Club, Rotary, Home Extension, and Junior 
Women’s Club. 

The Boys and Girls Club was a vital part of the community and organized many 
youth programs. The club had an activity building, which housed a small gymnasium. It 



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was used for organized youth programs, for dances, and social events. Basketball, 
volleyball, soccer, baseball, and softball programs were organized for preschool through 
sixth grade. A school bus dropped children off at the club after school for a variety of 
organized activities and homework help. The building had a computer and game room. 
The club sponsored community service groups for both junior high and high school 
youth. The building was connected to the community pool and had the locker room area 
and lifeguard station on the pool side. Two tennis courts were also located on the grounds 
around the club building. The Boys and Girls Club had units with similar programs in the 
two other towns in the school district. 

There were several service groups such as the local parent teacher organization 
and a philanthropic foundation that helped to fund various community and school 
projects. The Junior Women’s Club sponsored a community funfest in July. Activities, 
food booths, programs, and entertainment for all ages were offered in the downtown area. 

The community had one nine-hole golf course with a clubhouse. There were three 
parks in the community. It also had fairgrounds with a quarter-mile dirt stock car track 
and a half-mile limestone track for horse racing. The local American Legion post owned 
and operated the fairgrounds and sponsored stock car races on Saturday evenings 
throughout the summer. A five-day agricultural fair was held in August at the 
fairgrounds. The community had a library that had several computers for use by the 
patrons. It was a member of an interlibrary loan system. Next door to the library was a 
museum that featured rotating exhibits. 

The community had three medical facilities and a 24-hour ambulance service with 
emergency medical technicians on duty. The community’s police department employed 




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seven full-time officers, and there were 30 volunteer firefighters in the fire department 
(Association of Commerce, 1999). 

School projects and sports related activities were actively supported in the 
community. Local businesses, civic organizations, and booster groups all worked 
together to spearhead projects and work toward completion of these projects. Examples 
of this t)T)e of community support were evidenced in the building of an all-weather track 
at the high school. It was built solely by volunteer labor, materials, and private donations. 
Volunteerism was an important part of the way of life for members of this community. 
District 

The school district in which the problem existed was a unit district having grades 
prekindergarten through twelve. It covered a large two county area, and was a 
combination of three separate districts that were joined in 1986. There were a total of six 
different towns, which became the unit district. Community A was the largest town with 
a population of 4,250, Community B and C were smaller with populations of 
approximately 1,200 each, and the other three villages were much smaller. 

Total student enrollment of the district was 2, 121 students. There were three 
prekindergarten through grade buildings in the district, one each in Community A, B, and 
C. There was a combined fifth and sixth grade building and a junior high building, built 
in 1997, in Community B. The district’s high school was in Community A. The yearly 
operating expenditure per pupil for the district was $6,105 (School Report Card, 2000). 

The major racial-ethnic group in the district was White non-Hispanic which made 
up 95% of the total school enrollment. One percent of the district population was Black 




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non-Hispanic, 3.5% were Hispanic, and 0.4% were Asian-Pacific Islander (School Report 
Card, 2000) 

Low-income students made up 23.3% of the district’s student enrollment. Limited 
English proficient students who were eligible for bilingual education made up 0.4% of 
the district’s student enrollment (School Report Card, 2000). The district had a 95.3% 
attendance rate, and the student mobility rate for the district was 12.4. The chronic 
truancy rate was 0.7% for the district (School Report Card, 2000). 

The total number of certified teachers for the entire district was 144. Ethnic 
percentages for the teachers were 98.6% White, 0.7% Black, and 0.7% Hispanic. There 
were 26.3% male teachers and 73.3% female teachers. Of those teachers 63.3% held a 
bachelor’s degree, and teachers with a master’s degree or above accounted for 36.7%. 

The average years of teaching experience were 15.1 years. The ratio of pupil to teacher in 
the elementary school is 17.7 to 1. The ratio of pupil to certified staff was 13 .3 to 1. The 
average salary for teachers in the entire district was $40,464 and for administrators it was 
$64,478. There were currently 5 building principals and a unit superintendent (School 
Report Card, 2000). 

The district was a consolidation of three separate school districts, which were 
joined in 1986. Community C, one of the smallest of the former districts, had only a 
prekindergarten through fourth grade building at this time. Community C had always felt 
poorly represented compared to the other two communities because they each had at least 
two schools. There were many sports activities in both Community A and B, but none in 
Community C. This remained an issue that tended to come up in school board elections 
and voting within school board meetings. 




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Another related issue, which may have affected the entire district, was the 
possibility of reorganizing the placement of students at attendance centers. The smallest 
of the three main communities tended to have fewer students per classroom and more 
students with academic or behavior problems. The establishment of a low-income 
housing project may have resulted in more students with problems per classroom. Within 
that school were many classrooms with more than half of the students with individualized 
education plans (EEP) or student assistance team (SAT) plans. There were often 14 or 15 
students in a class. This class size was viewed by the school board to be too small to be 
economically efficient. 

Another issue had been that there was a considerable socioeconomic difference 
between Community C and the other two main communities. As a result the students 
from Community C have generally been ostracized as they join students in the fifth and 
sixth grade upper elementary building. It was not just the fact that these students did not 
dress as well, but there was a stigma associated with many students from Community C. 
The school board was considering a move toward attendance centers. This move might 
reduce some of the negative attitudes toward Community C and the prejudice toward 
these students. 

National Context of the Problem 

National concern for reading achievement has been an issue for educators and 
policy makers for several decades. As far back as the 1970’ s, states began to establish 
competency levels for reading. At this time states also began publicizing school 
achievement information, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress was 
established to report on student reading achievement. In the report. Becoming A Nation 




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of Readers, the authors stated that when comparing reading achievement with other 
countries, U.S. students ranked at or below the international average. While the authors 
of the report cautioned against international comparisons, they saw this international 
ranking as a “wake-up call” to educators to improve reading instruction (Anderson, 
Heibert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985). These same authors were concerned whether current 
generations would be literate enough to meet the demands of the technological 
information age where increasing levels of literacy would be required. 

Many have written that reading is at the center of all learning and that reading 
success or failure during the early years has a significant impact on the rest of a student’s 
life. President Bush, in the publication No Child Left Behind, contends that there is a 
genuine national crisis because of a growing division between those in the nation who 
can read and those who do (United States Department of Education, 2001). 

The 1991 Gallup survey indicated that Americans were reading less now than 
they did in the 1970’s. Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found that fifth grade 
students read only an average of 14.8 minutes per day. Watkins and Edwards (1992) 
reported that the average adult only about 20 minutes a day. 

Researchers have also pointed out that those students who were classified as 
hesitant readers were not just the poor readers, but included many capable readers as 
well. These researchers contended that other diversions competed with the interests of 
children and that reading was low on the list of spare time activities (Moser & Morrison, 
1998). In fact, one report suggested that children spend nearly 180 minutes watching 
television each day (Watkins & Edwards, 1992). 




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Cunningham and Allington (1999) reported that poverty is one of the most 
pervasive factors in determining if a child will be at risk for reading difficulties. They 
pointed out that the number of children living in poverty in this country rose from 16% in 
the late 1970’s to 25% to date. With this rise in poverty, the researchers would project 
that there will be even more children who will be at risk for academic failure unless 
classrooms are created where all children learn to read and Avrite. As many as 70 to 80 
percent of students in some inner-city schools and 30 percent in some suburban schools 
are unable to read and understand grade appropriate material (Honig, 1997). Nearly 70% 
of inner city fourth graders are unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests 
(United States Department of Education, 2001). 

Federal and state funding has been suggested to be used to implement research 
based prereading programs in existing preschool and Head Start programs. President 
Bush has called for action from the Congress to provide funds to ensure the goal that 
every child can read by the third grade. Action by the state board of education also called 
for every student to meet the state learning standards for reading as measured by the state 
reading assessment, and to perform at or above national averages on national measures of 
reading ability. To do this, current research suggested the teaching of foundational skills 
during beginning reading instruction. Then students must be taken beyond these 
foundation skills to apply these skills to respond to literature, read informational 
materials, use reference materials, interpret visual and graphic displays, and evaluate 
informational sources. 

National Assessment of Educational Progress results suggested that what it means 
to be a competent reader has changed dramatically and that educators must raise the level 




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of daily literacy instruction. Basic proficiency requires thinking that goes beyond 
recalling literacy information. Classrooms where children engage in huge amounts of 
reading and where instruction focuses on thinking and responding to what has been read 
are those where a larger number of readers are attaining the basic proficiency levels 
(Cunningham and Alllington, 1999). 

One of the biggest problems facing much of America today is the level of literacy 
skills. According to the 1993 Survey of Adult Literacy, nearly half the adult population 
has such poor skills that they would have difficulty reading a train schedule, writing a 
letter of coipplaint, or figuring the best deal on an item. This problem is becoming greater 
each year and does not appear to be improving. These illiterate adults are “more likely to 
be unemployed, on welfare, or in jail than their fiilly literate peers” (Palmaffy, 1997, 
p. 34). Improving the reading skills of students must be a top priority of all teachers 
throughout the nation. 




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CHAPTER 2 

PROBLEM DOCUMENTATION 
Problem Evidence 

Reading achievement by students in the targeted school was considered to be an area that 
needed improvement to meet district goals and standards. Teachers, the building principal, 
school board, and many parents expressed concern over reading achievement. Pretest measures 
administered by the researchers included the AGS Early Screening Profile, The Illinois Snapshot 
of Early Literacy (ISEL) pilot test, the Accelerated Reader STAR test, and the Woodcock 
Reading Inventory. Researchers administered these pre-test to one targeted kindergarten 
classroom of fourteen students and one targeted third grade classroom of nineteen students. Two 
researchers work within the same third grade classroom. 

Researchers studied the results of the Stanford Achievement Tests in three areas: word 
recognition, reading comprehension, and total reading. State achievement test scores were 
compared over a four-year period. Reading series theme test scores were reviewed. 

Researchers analyzed the use of the Accelerated Reader in the classrooms and the 
participation by the students in this program. Interviews were conducted with the building 
principal, the remedial reading teacher, the language arts committee chairman, and classroom 
teachers. 

The AGS Early Screening Profile and the ISEL were given to students of the targeted 
kindergarten classroom during the first two weeks of school. Subtests of the ISEL that were 




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studied by the researchers included alphabet recognition, story listening, and word recognition. 
Results of this test showed one-half of the students scored below 50% correct on alphabet 
recognition, 38% answered less than half of the questions correct on the story listening, and 
69% of the students answered less than half of the questions correct on word recognition. 

The AGS Screening Profile was used to screen for school readiness. Researchers 
analyzed primarily the cognitive language profile to get a reliable measure of the targeted 
students’ development in this area. Fourteen of the sixteen targeted kindergarten students (88%) 
scored within the average range. 

The Woodcock Reading Inventory^ was administered to the targeted third grade students 
during the first two weeks of school. Data obtained fi-om three subtests were analyzed: word 
identification, word comprehension, and passage comprehension. The school board had set a 
standard of having 85% of its students reading at grade level. Results of this test indicated that 
the goal was not being met in the targeted classroom. Twenty-six percent scored at grade level, 
and 48% scored above grade level in word identification. Most of the students appeared to have 
adequate decoding skills. Results of the word identification subtest showed that 26.3% of the 
targeted third grade students scored below grade level. The word comprehension subtest showed 
that 41 .6% of the targeted third grade students scored below grade level; 3 1 .6% scored at grade 
level, and 26.3% scored above grade level. This shows that the targeted students may be able to 
decode the word, but not necessarily understand it. On the passage comprehension subtest, 
47.3% scored below grade level; 31.6% scored at grade level, and 20.5% scored above grade 
level. This research indicates that nearly half of the targeted third grade students had difficulty 
understanding what they read. A summary of this data is provided in Table 1. 




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20 



Table 1 

Woodcock Reading Pretest 

Percent of third grade students^corina ateach grade level 



Grade Equivalents 




Subtests 




Levels 


Wd. Ident.. 


Wd. Comp. 


Passage Comp. 


1.5 -1.9 


0% 


5% 


0% 


2.0 -2.4 


0% 


5% 


26.30% 


2.5 -2.9 


26.30% 


31.60% 


21.00% 


3.0 - 3.4 


26.30% 


31.60% 


31.60% 


3.5 - 3.9 


10.50% 


15.80% 


10.50% 


4.0 - 4.4 


21% 


5% 


0% 


4.5 -4.9 


10.50% 


5% 


5% 


5.0 - 5.4 


0% 


0% 


0% 


5.5 - 5.9 


5% 


0% 


0% 


6.0 - 6.4 


0% 


0% 


5% 



Researchers examined data obtained from the STAR Reading Test, the beginning 
component of the Accelerated Reader program. This test was administered to the targeted third 
grade students in order to obtain their correct reading level. As shown in Table 2, 53% were 
below grade level when compared to other students nationally. 

The test consisted of a series of stories and comprehension questions at increasingly more 
difficult levels. The students progressed through these stories and questions until they reached a 
level that was considered frustration or too difficult for them. The test was programmed to 
determine a range of reading levels appropriate for the individual student. Students were 




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supposed to read Accelerated Reader books in their range and would then be able to pass 
comprehension tests on books in that range. 



Table 2 

STAR Reading Pretest - Third Grade Scores 



Percent Distribution of Grade Equivalent Scores 
Grade Eouivalents % Students 


# of Students 


1.5-1.9 


26% 


5 


2.0 -2.4 


16% 


3 


2.5 -2.9 


11% 


2 


3.0 - 3.4 


21% 


4 


3.5 - 3.9 


5% 


1 


4.0 - 4.4 


5% 


1 


4.5 - 4.9 


11% 


2 


5.0 - 5.4 


0% 


0 


5.5 - 5.9 


5% 


1 



19 total 



The STAR test was administered at the beginning of third grade, so students scoring at 
anything below 3.0 were considered below grade level. There were ten students who scored 
below grade level out of a class of 19 students in the targeted third grade (52.6%). Four students 




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fell in the grade level or slightly above range (21%). Five students (26.3%) scored above grade 
level. 

Results of the Stanford Achievement Tests taken by the targeted third graders were analyzed 
in the areas of word recognition, reading comprehension, and total reading. When comparing the 
percentile rank scores of the targeted students, seven of the targeted 18 students (38.8%) were 
found to have a total reading percentile rank score at or below the 49**' percentile. Eleven of the 
targeted third graders (61.1%) scored at or above the SO**" percentile. A summary of the test 
results is shown in Table 3. 



Tables 



Stanford Achievement Test Scores - Percentile Rank 

Number of Third Graders Scoring at each Percentile Rank 
Subtests Wd. Recog Rdg. Comp Total Rdg. Percents 



Below 25th %iie 3 

25th -49th %ile 5 

50th - 74th %ile 5 

75th % ile & up 5 



4 
2 

5 
7 



3 

4 
3 
8 



16.70% 

22 . 20 % 

16.70% 

44.40% 



18 Total 18 Total 18 Total 



The state reading test scores were examined to determine a pattern in the district for a 
four-year period. As shown in Table 4, the percentage of students in the “does not meet” 
category grew considerably in three out of the four years. In 1997-98 there were 16% of the 
students in the “does not meet” state standards category from our third grade scores. In the 




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following year, 20% were in that category, and in 1999-2000, the “does not meet” category 
increased to 37%. Last year (2000-2001) still had 24% in the “does not meet category.” In the 
last year, there were still only 77% of the students who met or exceeded state standards. During 
an interview, the building principal expressed concern over the number of students not meeting 
the state standards. He felt the results fell short of the district goal. 



Table 4 

State Reading Test Scores 



Years 


D. N. M. * 


Meets 


Exceeds 


1997-98 


16% 


66% 


18% 


1998-99 


20% 


55% 


27% 


1999-00 


37% 


46% 


17% 


2000-01 


24% 


55% 


22% 



* Does Not Meet State Standards 



A number of reading theme test scores were reviewed. Reading skills sections of the 
theme tests that were used consisted of the reading strategy subtests, the comprehension subtests, 
and the word skills subtests. The reading strategies subtests involved short answer prediction 
questions. The comprehension section included both short answer and multiple-choice questions, 
while the word skills subtest consisted of only multiple-choice questions. 

Reading series theme tests are one measure that the district language arts committee uses 
to plan for Title 1 eligibility and in planning reading improvement programs. Theme tests are 
given throughout the year and scores were averaged to determine a pattern. Of the theme test 




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scores reviewed, 17% of the students scored in the 92% -100% (A) range, 25% scored in the 
83% - 91% (B) range, 50% scored in the 74% - 82% (C) range, and 8% scored below a _C 
average. 

Report card grades in reading did not show a particular problem. Parents were 
interviewed about their views of reading report card grades. Many expressed that a grade of C in 
reading would be an area of concern for them. They would be in contact with the teacher to 
discuss the reason and would expect the student to improve the grade. Teachers interviewed 
rarely gave lower than a C. When students showed signs of dropping below a C average, they 
would often be referred for extra help in Title 1 classes or to a student assistance team for extra 
classroom support. Yet, the grade equivalent scores on the pretest measures showed below grade 
level results. 

Researchers looked at Accelerated Reader participation during the previous school year. 
The program was available on computers in all classrooms. Teachers allowed only marginal time 
during the day for sustained silent reading. No teacher allowed more than twenty minutes daily 
for students to read books of their choice. Reading AR books was encouraged mainly when 
students had finished assignments. Most of the reading was done at home. 

Of the targeted third grade students, one took no tests during the year. Another student 
read and passed only one AR test all year. Four of the targeted third grade students read and 
passed tests on fewer than ten books. Of the targeted third grade students, one-half read and 
passed the tests on less than one book per week. Only 22% of the targeted third grade students 
read and passed tests on more than 30 books. It appeared that the greatest majority of students, 
78%, read less than one book per week. Targeted third grade students read a total of 485 




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Accelerated Reader books throughout the previous year. Of those books read, 8 1% of the tests 
for those books were passed at a score of 70% or better. 

Probable Causes 

The targeted school demonstrated a need to make improved reading achievement a 
priority for its students. Teachers, parents, and administration agreed that reading was a skill that 
affected all areas of learning and was a necessary life skill. 

Richard Allington (1977) asked the question, “If they don’t read much, how they ever 
gonna get good?”(p. 57). Allington contended, “. . .to become a proficient reader, one needs the 
opportunity to read”(p. 60). In an informal survey he found that while a variety of instructional 
techniques and materials were used, students were doing very little reading. Teachers were 
letting isolated skills instruction become the primary focus of instruction. The poorest readers 
were often the students receiving much skill instruction with the use of flashcards, worksheets, 
and other instructional techniques in isolation, while not spending sufficient time actually 
reading. 

Another possible reason for below grade level reading achievement may be that students 
have not developed sufficient fluency and automaticity in reading. Biemiller (1978) suggested 
that reading rates may be the result of poor readers reading less and are therefore exposed to 
fewer instances of the various orthographic structures that make up the English language. 

Samuels (1988) stated that one of the main ways to help poor readers become automatic at 
decoding and word recognition was to “. . .provide time to practice so the skill becomes 
automatic”(p. 759). 

A consensus of the teachers interviewed in the targeted school felt that parents did not 
spend adequate time at home practicing reading with their children. Research by Greaney (1980) 




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found that only 5.4% of leisure time was spent on reading by fifth grade students. He also found 
a positive relationship between the amount of time spent reading at home and reading 
achievement of elementary students. Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) reported on a study 
of the relationship between how children spend their time out of school and reading 
achievement. They found that time spent reading at home was the best predictor of reading gains 
from second to fifth grade. Students, therefore, needed to increase the amount of time they spent 
practicing reading at home, especially in the form of oral and assisted reading. Parental 
involvement helps children learn more effectively (Anderson, 2000). 

Solutions 

Reading practice needs to be challenging, but successful. It is important that the level of 
books used for reading practice is not too difficult or easy for the reader. To become automatic 
with a sufficient vocabulary, the practicing reader needs exposure to less frequent and more 
difficult words in meaningful context. Students cannot become proficient readers if they are 
reading books much too easy or much too hard for them. Researchers were concerned that 
students were choosing books that were not challenging them in exposure to new vocabulary and 
concepts. Difficult books were fhistrating them, causing a dislike for reading. They should be 
encouraged to read in what Paul (1996) refers to as the zone of proximal development, “. . .the 
reading level at which reading practice will promote maximum development.” (p. 10) 

Teachers have been reading aloud to students for many reasons including introducing 
them to the pleasures of reading and for instructional purposes. Many times the read aloud model 
relegates listeners to a passive role and discussions are held after the reading. The researchers 
were concerned that students needed to be more engaged with the text so that they could learn 
how meaning is constructed and to explore the reading process. Barrentine (1996) felt that stories 




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that were read interactively encouraged students to learn how stories work, how to monitor 
comprehension, and what to think about as the story progresses. Strategies are taught through 
demonstration. These demonstrations model for the students the kinds of interactions they should 
be having with their own texts as they read. 

To increase the reading achievement of students in the targeted classrooms, several issues 
needed to be considered. More time during the school day needed to be used to practice reading 
and to improve automaticity. Students should be encouraged to practice their reading skills orally 
at home. To promote maximum reading development, teachers must guide students toward 
reading books that are at an appropriate level. Students need to become more engaged in the 
reading process to monitor their comprehension and learn how stories work. 




QO 



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CHAPTER 3 

THE SOLUTION STRATEGY 
Literature Review 

Educators have been arguing, debating, and researching instructional methods for 
teaching reading for decades. All throughout educational history, educators have proposed 
theories or methods that were to be the answer to all reading problems and would teach all 
children to read. The literature was filled with ideas on instructional techniques, strategies, and 
programs for teaching reading. One could never exhaust the vast amount of studies related to 
reading methods and issues of effective education. Educators did not doubt that good instruction 
was absolutely necessary in helping children learn to read. 

Many in the field of reading concurred that there was no simple solution. Children come 
to school with different personalities, backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles. People 
continued to look for the one best way to teach reading without taking into account all of these 
differences in our classrooms (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Hundreds of thousands of 
dollars have been spent on research to help find the best approach to teach reading. Those results 
were inconclusive in finding a best approach. A study by Bond and Dykstra concluded that a 
combination of approaches worked better than any one single approach (as cited in Cunningham 
& Allington, 1995). A study by the National Reading Research Center on the practices of regular 
and special education teachers considered to be highly effective by their supervisors found that 
these teachers, “ . . . reported a great balance in the instruction they offered to students” 



O 

ERIC 



.33 



29 



(Wharton-McDonald, Rankin, Mistretta, Ettenberger, 1997, p. 519). Some effective teaching 
practices were teachers’ modeling of literacy skills, daily practice, and individual participation 
by students. Skills prerequisite to reading, such as letter-sound associations, decoding strategies, 
phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies were taught both in context and in isolation. 
Various types of reading were used such as shared reading, students reading aloud to others, 
choral reading, daily silent reading, and reading with parents. The explicitness and extensiveness 
of the instruction varied with the ability of the reader. The weaker readers were offered more of 
the same instruction as stronger readers. With this in mind and after searching the literature, 
several theories began to dominate. These theories were all related to the goal of improving the 
reading achievement of at-risk students in regular classrooms. 

One of the great debates throughout the history of reading instruction has been the 
effectiveness of intensive phonics teaching. Phonics has been identified as an alphabetic 
approach. Children learn the letters and the sound-symbol relationship required to form words. 
Educators believed instruction in phonics was important because a beginning reader must figure 
out how the alphabet works. Research has shown that directly teaching the letter-sound system 
speeds up literacy acquisition (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Many researchers have 
recommended phonics as an important part of teaching reading. 

Studies done by Chall prior to 1965 indicated that an emphasis on learning the printed 
code for spoken language produced better results during beginning reading instruction at least 
through third grade (Fulwiler & Groff, 198G). Dykstra also studied the research both before and 
after 1965 and concluded that when children received intensive phonics instruction in the early 
stages of reading, they developed better word recognition skills and therefore had the skills 
necessary to become independent readers (Fulwiler & Groff, 1980). 




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30 



Evidence indicated considerable time should be given over to the, . explicit and 
comprehensive development ofbeginning readers’ phonics skills... ’’(Groff, 1998, p.l39). When 
children figure out the letter-sound system, they have the ability to decode. They apply meaning 
to signals, which enables them to figure out pronunciations for the words they see in print (Lapp 
& Flood, 1997). In fact, some researchers felt that decoding skills were a necessary prerequisite 
for comprehension and skilled reading. Research evidence pointed to the fact that skilled readers 
were so good at decoding that they did not need to use context to help them in the process 
(Samuels, 1988). 

Samuels (1988) theorized that when teaching decoding skills, teachers should work 
towards the goal of accuracy in word recognition. Skilled reading also required that accuracy be 
followed by an automatic stage. A fluent reader developed both accuracy and automaticity. That 
meant the reader was automatic, needing to use little effort or energy to recognize a word. This 
left the reader’s mental energy free to comprehend what was being read. One of the first things a 
teacher had to do to develop this automaticity was to instruct students in the decoding skills 
needed to become fluent readers. 

Research done by Stanovich in 1986 found that children who started acquiring decoding 
skills slowly, rarely became strong readers as they went through school (as cited in Lapp & 
Flood, 1997). Another study by fuel in 1988 found that when students experienced an early 
acquisition of decoding skills, it led to wider reading both in and out of school (as cited in Lapp 
& Flood, 1997). 

Students needed to become automatic in pronouncing and recognizing words. This ability 
depended on knowing how to use the alphabetic system to decode words. Research stated that. 







31 

“...equipping each child to decode simple words should be a major goal of kindergarten and 
early first grade reading instruction” (Honig, 1997, paragraph 10). 

After examining the research, Groff (1998) concluded that the more phonics information 
children were taught, and the better they learned to apply it to the written word, the better the 
beginning reading achievement would be. According to Honig, “...first grade decoding ability 
predicts 80 to 90% of reading comprehension in second and third grade and still accounts for 
nearly 40% of reading comprehension by ninth grade”(1997, paragraph 10). Honig (1997) 
recommended an organized and systematic phonics curriculum to teach students how this 
alphabetic system works. He called for curriculum that would include teaching enough of the 
letter-sound correspondence so that students would become automatic with a number of words. 
They would need to develop proficiency in word attack skills and practice these new skills in 
decodable text where about 1 in 20 words needed to be figured out. 

Many educators did agree that a student’s acquisition of phonics skills is an essential part 
of reading development (Groff, 1998). Samuels (1988, p. 758) reported that, “Everyone seemed 
to agree that beginning readers needed to learn decoding skills.” However, great controversy 
remained about how and when to teach these skills. Not all educators or researchers agreed with 
the intense, sequential, comprehensive phonics training. 

Cunningham and Allington (1999) examined the research and found no conclusive 
evidence on what sort of phonics lessons should be taught or how long the lessons should last to 
develop the needed skills in students. They also found that research did not agree on what order 
letters and sounds should be taught or what approaches should be used. Well-planned instruction 
based on student needs was more effective than random instruction. 




32 



Goodman and Goodman (1979) proposed that learning to read is natural, and students 
learn to do it in the same way as they learn to speak and listen. They also believed that reading 
instruction needed to create and enhance conditions that would allow the student’s natural 
competence to take over. Goodman and Goodman saw both oral and written language as learned 
in the same way. “In neither case is the user required by the nature of the task to have a high 
level of conscious awareness of the units and system”(1979, p.l39). Goodman and Goodman 
also theorized that students build from whole to part. They concluded that, “. . .nonproficient 
readers showed problems in getting it all together. They tended to bog down in preoccupation 
with letters and words and lose meaning”(1979, p.l48). 

Johnson and Louis (1990) theorized that breaking reading down into skills destroys the 
meaning of reading because each word in a text obtains meaning from the words around it. 
Harste, Woodward, and Burke (1984) have demonstrated in their research that students have all 
the strategies necessary to continue their development of language. They believed that invasive 
intervention or sequencing a set of skills would not cause reading to occur. There was no order in 
which patterns would be attended to, but rather the student would determine the usefulness of 
each pattern. Harste (et al., 1984) felt that students needed environments that encouraged them to 
use their existing learning strategies. They also theorized that students should first interact with 
the complete text. Attention to ideas, sentences, and continuing smaller units would follow. 
Constant and repeated demonstrations were at the heart of good instruction. 

Lapp and Flood maintained that phonics instruction, “. . . should not occur in isolation 
from books”(1997, p .699). Research by Carbo (as cited in Lapp & Flood, 1997) found that 
many emergent readers do not have the ability to learn through analytic and abstract experiences. 




37 



33 



They would learn better by use of the whole to part experiences gained from reading whole 
books together as a class and phonics lessons should follow later. 

Whole language has many components and has been around for over 60 years. Daniels, 
Zemelman, and Bizar (1999) found whole language was generally composed of reading aloud 
daily, using classic children’s literature, structuring independent reading, using interdisciplinary 
themes, higher level thinking, teacher-student conferences, collaborative groups, modeling, and 
self-assessment. Other names for the methodology include literature-based instruction and 
constructivism. Spin-offs from the ideology of whole language include Reading Recovery, story 
mapping, webbing, sustained silent reading (SSR), journaling, and perhaps even Accelerated 
Reader (Daniels, et al., 1999). 

Thompson found that many schools in the late 1930’s opted to use real children’s 
literature instead of the commercial basal programs popular at that time (as cited in Daniels, 
Zemelman, & Bizar, 1999). The basal programs were generally subskill-oriented, while the 
literature-based programs encouraged children to use wide independent reading. Thompson’s 
summary of 40 different studies comparing the two types of programs, basal and literature-based, 
showed that over half favored the literature-based programs, and 15 showed no significant 
difference in achievement. Research findings by Tunnell and Jacobs (1989) showed a pattern of 
gains in achievement in the whole language and literature-based programs in the last 20 years. 
These gains showed across the board, including students in regular classrooms, special needs 
students, low socioeconomic background students, and even those who had English-as-a-second- 
language needs. 

A study by Weaver was later published in a book (Weaver, Gillmeister-Krause, & 




34 



Ventozogby, 1996). In this study Weaver found that students in whole language programs did as 
well as students in phonics and skills-based programs on standardized reading tests, developing 
skills in punctuation, grammar, spelling and vocabulary. This was attributed to learning these 
things in context, not in isolation. 

Bracey (1998) reported that in Sachs and Mergendoller’ s 1997 study, whole language 
seemed to work better with the lower level students because they were lacking in the basic 
emergent literacy skills such as reading from left to right, print conventions, and expectations 
about the nature of reading. This study took place in kindergarten and also seemed to lean toward 
lower level readers needing whole language because it was more engaging and interesting to 
those who were not really that motivated. Sachs & Mergendoller believed that the more capable 
students could benefit from the phonics-oriented classroom because it concentrated on mastery, 
practice, and the ability to automatically perform certain specific skills. 

Drecktrah and Chiang (1997) noted that Stahl and Miller found that whole language 
approaches were more appropriate in kindergarten than in first grade. They also believed that 
whole language approaches would be better for word recognition than for comprehension. 
Another philosophy that Stahl and Miller espoused was that whole language was not as effective 
with disadvantaged students. This seems to be in direct contrast to the study by Sachs and 
Mergendoller. A possible explanation might be that the Sachs’ study took place only in 
kindergarten, while the Stahl and Miller study also concentrated on initial reading instruction in 
first grade. 

Harris & Graham (1993) espoused an integrated approach. Since children come to school 
at many different levels of experience, readiness, and ability, no method works with every child. 




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35 



Many teachers at various grade levels combine skills instruction, phonics, and whole language 
into an eclectic approach for reading instruction according to Drecktrah & Chiang (1997). 

The family connection of teaching reading has a long history. The earliest findings of 
education in the United States showed that teaching reading began in the kitchen. It has even 
been shown through paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth century of storytellers telling 
stories and pointing with a stick to text written on a board. 

Parental involvement in reading was found to be an important factor in the ability to 
teach reading and read fluently. Huey (1968) wrote, “ . . . the secret of it all lies in the parents’ 
reading aloud to and with their children”(p. 332). These early recognitions about reading to 
children were ignored until the 1970’s. This disregard and neglect was caused by the belief that 
literacy development did not begin until formal instruction was given in school. 

Durkin (1974) summarized the traditional objections about reading before a child enters 
school: “. . .Preschool reading will be injurious to a child’s vision; parents are not trained to teach 
reading; preschool reading leads to problems of boredom or confusion when school instruction 
begins” (p. 138). 

Durkin (1966) also did research in the area of literacy development. She did a study to 
investigate what children’s experiences before school lead to signs of acquiring literacy. Durkin 
concluded that being read to created an interest in reading. 

For many years, teachers knew through their classroom experiences and results from 
research projects like Durkin’s (1966) that the reading readiness programs were theoretically and 
practically inappropriate. It has only been since the late 1970’s that the appropriateness of these 
programs has been challenged. 




36 

Researchers such as Clay, Goodman, and Harste reaffirmed the discovery process of 
emergent literacy in children (as cited in Wan, 2000). The idea has brought greater attention to 
the roles parents, teachers, and books play in the development of children’s literature. 

The research findings of Cullinan (1989), Donelson and Nilson (1989) and Huck, Helper 
and Hickman (1987) showed that children that are surrounded by books and supportive adults 
acquired literacy more quickly. Mass (1982) believed that literacy developed gradually in a 
natural environment, filled with good books, meaningful conversation and abundant writing 
materials. He stated that this happens before a child starts school. Teale (1981) suggested more 
naturalistic research should be done to see if there is any correlation between the styles used in 
literacy orientation through analysis of how children are read to. This knowledge may help 
educators provide reading and writing instruction that builds upon the foundation that a child 
brings to school as a result of the students socio-cultural experiences. Cochran-Smith (1984) 
supported Teale’ s (1981) statement and said, “. . . Patterns of story reading are cross-nationally 
and cross-culturally diverse.” (p. 8) 

Today there is still in need for more naturalistic studies to examine cross-cultural 
differences of reading aloud to children, especially those from families that speak different 
languages. These studies may help schools understand the variations of literacy orientations 
children receive at home and school. 

Research documents the importance of reading aloud at home and at school. 

Louszides’s study pointed out that a background of being read to during infancy has a positive 
effect on a child’s choice to read independently in their leisure time (as cited in Wan, 2000). 
Becher also thought that being read to improved a child’s receptive and expressive vocabularies, 
comprehension skills, sentence length, letter and symbol recognition, basic concept development 




41 



37 



and interest in books. He also thought that reading to a child promoted a bond between parent 
and child and showed that reading is a valuable activity. Becher thought that reading promoted 
positive interactions among family members and made children aware of language patterns, 
expanded vocabulary, and served as a source of information from which children build 
knowledge about rules that guide the reading process (as cited in Wan, 2000). 

Parent and family involvement in education benefits all participants. Anderson, Hiebert, 
Scott, & Wilkinson, (1985) and Morrow (1995) documented that family literacy practices foster 
a love and desire for reading. Research has shown that parent involvement benefits students of 
all ages, parents, teachers and schools. 

The benefits of parental involvement for students include a higher achievement in 
reading, quality work, and a positive attitude toward school. Other benefits are improve- 
ment in student achievement, parental school support, and teacher morale improvement. 

Many educators believed another critical factor involved in getting children to grow as 
readers was that students needed to spend lots of time reading (Gillet & Temple, 1990). 
Becoming a good reader required more than merely being able to perform isolated skills or read 
a series of words on a list. Practice was required to apply and transfer isolated skills to the 
reading process (Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980). Allington (1977) reported on an informal survey 
taken to determine the number of words that the average student was reading, showed that the 
students were doing very little reading. Students read no more than 1 10 words during the lesson 
observed. He also theorized that the, “. . .ability to read fluently required the opportunity to 
read’XAllington, 1997, p. 58). 

Greaney (1980) found after studying 920 fifth graders, the amount of time spent reading 
was positively related to reading achievement. Walberg and Tsai (as cited in Gillett & Temple, 




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38 



1990) studied 2,890 thirteen-year-olds and found that frequency and amount of reading were 
related to reading achievement. Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found in a study of 155 
fifth graders that time spent reading and reading achievement were positively related. 

Hoyt (2000) claimed research was very clear about the importance of independent 
reading and that teachers needed to provide substantial time for independent reading every day. 

A study by Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found that time spent reading books was the 
best predictor of reading achievement in second through fifth grade students. Taylor, Frye, & 
Maruyama (1990) reported that their study of 195 fifth and sixth grade students supported the 
theory that time spent reading at school was significantly related to gains in students’ reading 
achievement. 

A study by Nagy, Anderson, and Herman found that students who read for at least 20 
minutes a day, every day, could add 1000 new words to their vocabulary each year (as cited in 
Hoyt, 2000). In data collected by Topping and Paul (1999), student reading ability was strongly 
positively related to the amount of in school reading practice. 

Ivey (2000, p.42) said that, “. . . the amount of time spent reading separated the successful 
readers from the unsuccessful readers.” Students should be given time to read during the most 
critical instruction times and across the content areas where it counts the most (Ivey, 2000). 
Topping and Paul (1999) proposed that based on research by Leinhardt, if teachers added five 
minutes of reading a day, students would make additional gains in grade level equivalents. 
Topping and Paul (1999) also reported on a study done in New York State that showed the 
biggest difference between high and low performing schools was the large amount of silent 
reading done in the high performing schools. Allington (1984) found that extremely good readers 
read 150 times more words in a week than the poorest readers. 




43 



39 



Sustained silent reading was developed as a component in various school reading 
programs, giving students the opportunity to practice reading. Hunt (1970) first popularized the 
idea that children should be given time to read during the school day. A fixed amount of time 
was set aside for silent reading of materials selected by the students. The time period would 
gradually increase as the students became involved and the program continued throughout the 
school year. 

Cunningham and Allington (1999) recommended that second and third graders should 
spend at least 20-30 minutes each day reading from materials they have chosen. They further 
recommended that reading should be the only activity during this time and that the amount of 
time should be consistent and regular. To make sure that students were spending independent 
reading time in actual reading, Gambrell suggested that time prior to sustained silent reading be 
set aside for selecting reading material (as cited in Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980). A study by 
Kragler and Nolley (1996) found that when students were given the opportunity for self-selection 
of independent reading material, 62% chose books at their independent reading level. Allington 
(1977) suggested that readers needed the opportunity to be placed in materials they can read 
fluently in order to develop fluent and rapid oral reading. 

A study by Gaskins (1998) found that when students who were reading two to five years 
below grade level were placed in a reading program designed to provide lots of reading time, 
they gained two or more years in basal reading levels during the two years they were in the 
program. These students were also achieving at or above the mean on standardized achievement 
tests. Another study compared a sustained silent reading model to that of a control group where 
no organized silent reading program was conducted. The results indicated that an organized 




44 



40 

silent reading program made a difference in the reading achievement and attitudes of students 
(Manning & Manning, 1984). 

Hoyt ( 2000) suggested that emergent readers needed independent reading time to handle 
books, make stories from the pictures, and be treated as fully engaged readers. They might enjoy 
reading a book together, talking about a book, or even acting out a story that was read to them 
earlier ( Routman, 1991). 

While time set aside for independent reading practice was shown in many studies to have 
a positive influence on reading achievement, there were some weaknesses reported in this 
approach. All students were not engaged in reading and spent little time during the reading 
period actually reading. This seemed to be especially true in students who were reading books at 
the wrong level, students who were unmotivated to read, or those students with learning 
disabilities. Methods needed to be developed to insure students were actually practicing reading 
text and getting the most from the practice time provided in class. Hoyt (2000) recommended 
teaching minilessons on how to choose a book that will keep the reader interested. She also 
suggested lessons on what happens during independent reading time and how students can 
employ reading strategies to help them become better readers. Truscott (1996) found that 
students were more likely to persist in challenging tasks if they know how to use a wide variety 
of reading strategies. 

Moore, Jones, & Miller (1980) believed that the teacher should be required to read during 
the silent independent reading time and to end the time by reacting to what she read. In fact a 
study by McCracken and McCracken (as cited in Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980) suggested that 
one of the major causes of failure of sustained silent reading was that the teacher did not provide 
a good role model. 




/■3 rr 

^5 



41 



Manning and Manning (1984) studied different models of reading practice and found that 
students who participated in peer-interaction models appeared to make the most gains in reading 
achievement. Slavin and Madden (1989) reviewed research on approaches designed to increase 
reading achievement to see what works best and found when students worked in small learning 
teams, they mastered the material better. Lee-Daniels and Murray (2000) also adapted the silent 
reading model to form pairs of students who were reading at a similar level. Once the students 
had read their books independently, they discussed information about what they had read. Moser 
and Morrison (1998) also used paired reading as a way to increase the time spent reading in the 
classroom and to increase reading achievement. Having the two students read simultaneously or 
having one student in the pair read orally while the other listened, helped increase the students’ 
comprehension rate by 2.7 years. Truscott (1996) also found that modifying sustained silent 
reading by including pair reading strongly influenced both motivation and achievement. Dixon- 
Krauss (1995) found that students working in a paired reading situation improved in word 
recognition and in higher level thought processes involved in reading. The research suggested 
that students must discuss and respond to the books read as well as just “Drop Everything And 
Read”(D.E.A.R.) (Gillet & Temple, 1990). 

Another component of sustained silent reading was to incorporate a time for sharing of 
material read. Moser and Morrison (1998) reported that student sharing of favorite books was a 
motivation for many students to try new books. It helped in self-selection of interesting, 
motivating reading material and expanded the variety of genres and authors read. Truscott 
(1996) also encouraged allowing time for the discussion of good books and providing time to 
write critiques or recommendations. Students would be able to use this information to choose 



O 

ERIC 



46 



42 



appropriate materials. Book talks by teachers to entice students to explore a wider range of 
materials and to provide guidance for self-selection, was recommended by Routman (1991). 

Many researchers concluded that setting aside time for reading during the school day 
must become a priority for students and teachers and be viewed as one of the most worthwhile 
activities students can be doing. 

Educators across the nation have been noticing a downward trend in students’ reading 
skills in the classroom. These students were reading below grade level and had low self esteem 
and an extreme lack of motivation. For example, statistics showed the average high school senior 
spent the same amount of time reading as the average kindergartener. Educators saw the need to 
take charge and to introduce a program that would improve reading skills and interest students in 
reading. 

This program was called Accelerated Reader and was developed in 1993. This program 
was designed to combine literary skills and the use of the computer to motivate students to read. 
The program adapted to students of different ages ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade. 

The first step in this program, depending on grade level, was the student was read to, or 
the student read individually. A teacher usually read to students at lower grade levels. This 
allowed the teacher to see what different views the students had about the same text. Students at 
higher-grade levels were given the freedom to choose what book to read. The STAR (Student 
Testing Assessment Reading) diagnostic test was given at the beginning of the year to determine 
each student’s reading level. This allowed them to pick a topic of interest and a book that was in 
their comfort zone. This comfort zone has been also called “zone of proximal 
development”(Topping & Paul, 1999). 




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43 



The second step was when the student took a multiple-choice quiz on the computer, 
which tested their comprehension of the book. The computer revealed the answers to the 
questions and rewarded points instantaneously. This type of reward gave the students detailed 
and timely feedback. Each book was assigned a certain amount of points depending on its 
difficulty. This allowed the students to have more control over their reading activity and amount 
of points earned. Therefore, they were encouraged to improve their reading level in order to 
receive more points. 

The third step was when the teacher received immediate feedback on the student’s 
progress. Teachers could check the student’s results on the computer as soon as they had 
completed the quiz. This allowed the teachers to track their reading behavior through an analysis 
of their progression. Accelerated Reader enabled the teacher to make an early intervention and 
evaluation of the student’s progress. 

Overall, researchers and teachers have seen nothing but success from this program. 
Studies have shown, including the results from the Patterns of Reading Practice (Paul, 1996), 
that Accelerated Reader stimulated increased reading; which in turn led to greater academic 
success and improved attendance. 

In conclusion. Accelerated Reader is a program that is helping students change their view 
about reading. It has been shown that students are reading more (McKnight, 1992; as cited in 
Toock, 1998). Accelerated Reader also improves self-esteem, motivation, and helps improve 
reading levels. This program not only helps students, but it helps teachers teach by watching 
their student’s progress more closely. 

Another program that correlated well with Accelerated Reader was a book buddy 
program. This has been described as a strategy in which students were paired up to share the 




48 



44 



experience of reading. Usually the students were from different grades, such as fifth and first or 
kindergarten and third graders. The purpose of this pairing was to enable the older student to 
tutor the younger one and along the way to enhance his own reading ability. Normally the book 
buddy program consisted of the partners getting together for about 30 minutes once a week. 
Usually the older student held the book so the younger student was able to follow along silently 
as the “tutor” read the book aloud. Questions were asked and answered by both the tutor and the 
tutee (student being tutored), according to Block & Dellamura (2000-2001). 

Some of the advantages to this program included good role models for oral reading, 
improvement in both comprehension and use of variant decoding strategies by both partners, an 
improved self concept for both, and much more of an interest in reading in general by both 
partners. One of the most important factors in this program was to match up the correct partners. 
This was up to the two teachers to figure out which temperaments would go best together. It was 
suggested by Berliner & Casanova to stick to the same gender partners in order for the best 
results, according to Chandler & Gibson (1998). 

There were several different ways to set up book buddy programs. One method took 
place within a single classroom in which higher ability students were paired with lower ability 
students. Another possibility was to match an older classroom up with a younger classroom as 
already suggested. This was done several ways. Sometimes the older student practiced one 
particular book and then read it to several students in the younger class. The advantage was that 
enhanced practice probably improved his reading, but there would not be any strong attachment 
made between tutor and tutee, as noted by Chandler & Gibson (1998). 

The persistent partnerships model matched students by gender and temperament for the 
length of the program. This enabled strong bonds to form between the partners and set the stage 




45 



for more improvements within each of the partners. It has long been known that one learns more 
by teaching than by being taught. This became apparent when one looked at the progress made 
by the tutor. However, the tutee probably paid more attention to the tutor than to his teacher 
because he was more his own age, was a role model, and probably explained things in his own 
‘lingo’ say Block & Dellamura (2000-2001). 

There were many benefits from the persistent partnership model according to Block & 
Dellamura. Tutors learned to select more appropriate books for their tutees, and they discovered 
what different strategies their buddies used and needed. Chandler & Gibson (1998) believed an 
essential part of the buddy system included direct instruction on prediction, questioning, and 
different decoding strategies. These would be taught to the older students and practiced and 
modeled to the younger ones. 

Another aspect of the book buddies program, which seemed to be effective according to 
Block & Dellamura (2000-2001), was the extension into a writing program. After the students 
shared their books, they wrote or drew in journals, which they shared with each other. Other 
ideas included reflection forms dictated once a grading period, reading records with 5 to 1 star 
ratings, and strategies checklists that gave tutees hints about things to try and also kept a record 
of what worked. Partner or buddy reading helped the tutors improve their oral reading, especially 
the ability to change pitch, pace, and inflection. They sometimes even learned to use various 
voices to depict different characters. Block and Dellamura (2000-2001) believed that this 
increased the interest of the tutees in the books being read to them. Another plus for this program 
was the improvement in the self-esteem, pride, and positive feelings toward reading felt by the 
students being tutored and the tutors. The third group of people to benefit from this program, 
beside the tutors and the tutees, were the teachers. The students received one-to-one tutoring for 




50 



46 



at least 30 minutes a week from someone that the student looked up to and wanted as a role 
model. For teachers to give this much individual attention to each student for every book that 
was read would have been almost impossible, according to Block and Dellamura (2000-2001). 
There seem to have been advantages for tutors, tutees, and even the teachers who participated in 
the buddy reading program. 

After having researched whole language and phonetic strategies, the action researchers 
agreed that an eclectic approach combining the best of both methods would be the appropriate 
choice. Because the action plan involved a kindergarten class and a third grade class, the action 
researchers determined the strategies which would work with both classes included buddy 
reading between the two classes, silent sustained reading. Accelerated Reader, and a home-to- 
school reading program. All three action researchers fully believe in the phonetic approach, but 
also feel that it should be concentrated in first and second grades. Since the action researchers are 
combining kindergarten and third graders, the researchers believe the chosen strategies are the 
best combination for the emergent readers in kindergarten and those who have already achieved 
their basic reading skills in third grade. The action researchers will investigate the relationship 
between increased reading time and increased reading test scores. 

Project Outcomes and Processes 

As a result of the use of the Accelerated Reader program in the targeted kindergarten and 
third grade classrooms, the students will be able to select reading material in their zone of 
proximal development, increase reading practice time and increase reading comprehension. 

As a result of the implementation of a Buddy reading program between the targeted 
kindergarten and third grade classrooms, students will increase reading practice using both 




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47 



paired and repeated reading, gain positive reading experiences, and provide models for younger 
students. 

As a result of a development of a home school reading program, students will increase 
reading practice time. 

As a result of a sustained silent reading program, students will increase reading practice 

time and develop independent reading strategies. 

As a result of these described interventions during the period of August 2001 to January 
2002, the kindergarten and third grade students from the targeted classes will increase their 
reading achievement. This will be measured by the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (I.S.E.L) 
and the Cognitive Language Profile for kindergarten students. The STAR test and the Woodcock 
Reading Mastery Tests-Revised will be used for third grade students. 

Process Statements 

In order to accomplish the project outcomes, the following processes are necessary. 

1 . Develop a buddy reading system pairing third grade students with 
kindergarten students. 

2. Develop a home to school reading program. 

3. Establish the Accelerated Reader Program in each classroom. 

4. Provide adequate blocks of time during the school day for sustained 
silent reading. 

Project Action Plan 

The teacher will: 

Week 1 

■ Inform parents by sending home student consent forms with a friendly cover letter 







48 



■ Pretest individual kindergarten students with the AGS Early Screening Profile 

■ Pretest individual third grade students with the Woodcock Reading Mastery 
Revised Form F 

■ Pretest individual third grade students on the computer generated STAR reading test 
Week 2 

■ Continue pretest for all students 

■ Begin pretesting kindergarten on Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (I.S.E.L.) 

■ Begin compiling scores to determine baseline information on student reading levels 

■ Introduce Sustained Silent Reading time to all targeted students 

■ Introduce D.E. A.R. time to kindergarten students 

■ Provide third grade students with daily reading log 
Weeks 

■ Finish pretest on kindergarten students using I.S.E.L. 

■ Finish compiling baseline scores for reading levels. 

■ Introduce Accelerated Reader program to third grade students. 

■ Begin to read books in student’s zone of proximal development and take tests. 

" Begin reading Accelerated Reader books to kindergarten students. 

■ Organize students to take Accelerated Reader tests on book read in class. 

■ Introduce buddy reading program to third grade students. 

“ Select books to read to kindergarten buddies. 

■ Practice reading buddy books individually and with partners. (3"* graders) 

■ Read first buddy book to kindergarten buddy. (3"^ graders) 

■ Continue SSR daily 




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49 

■ Continue D.E.A.R. time daily 

■ Prepare parent information and recording forms for home-school reading program 
Week 4 

■ Continue Accelerated Reader program 

■ Continue SSR daily 

■ Continue D.E.A R. time daily 

■ Choose a new buddy book, practice, and read to kindergarten buddy 

■ Introduce home to school reading program 

■ Send home letters and recording forms for home to school reading program 

■ Establish Accelerated Reader goals 
Weeks 

■ Continue Accelerated Reader program 

■ Continue SSR daily 

■ Continue D.E.A.R. time daily 

■ Choose a new buddy book, practice, and read to kindergarten buddy 

■ Monitor and encourage home to school reading program 

" Plan recognition for students meeting Accelerated Reader goals 
Week 6 

■ Continue Week 5 activities 
Week 7 

■ Continue Week 6 activities 

• Implement positive recognition of students who are reading regularly at home 




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Weeks 

■ Continue Week 7 activities 
Week 9-16 

■ Continue implementation of existing strategies and introduction of new strategies as 
needed 

Week 16 

■ Begin individual kindergarten posttest with AGS Early Screening Profile 

■ Begin individual third grade posttest with Woodcock Reading Mastery Revised 
Form H and STAR reading test 

Week 17 

■ Continue individual kindergarten posttest with I.S.E.L. 

■ Continue individual third grade posttest 
Week 18 

■ Complete all posttesting 

■ Compile scores 

■ Analyze data 

Methods of Assessment 

Kindergarten students will be given the AGS Early Screening Profile and the State 
Snapshot of Early Learning. The purpose of these tests is tq determine a baseline level of 
readiness to read. The same tests will be used as a posttest after the strategies have been used on 
the kindergarten students to assess the effectiveness of those tests. 

Third graders will be given the STAR reading test from Accelerated Reader and the 
Woodcock Reading Mastery Revised (Form G). The purpose of these tests will be to determine a 




55 



reading level for each individual third grader. Different forms of the Woodcock and STAR test 
will be given as posttests to determine the effectiveness of the various reading strategies. 

These particular tests were chosen because they provide the necessary data on reading 
and readiness for our action research project, and they were readily available in our district. 



52 



CHAPTER 4 
PROJECT RESULTS 
Historical Description of the Intervention 

The objective of the action research project was to increase the reading 
achievement of the targeted kindergarten and third grade students. This was 
accomplished through implementation of the Accelerated Reader program (AR), a buddy 
reading program, a silent sustained reading program (SSR), and a home-to-school reading 
program 

The research team consisted of three persons. One researcher taught a third grade 
self-contained classroom; the second researcher was a learning disabilities resource 
teacher who supported the language program in the targeted third grade classroom, and 
the third researcher taught in a kindergarten classroom within the same targeted school. 
All students within the targeted classrooms participated in the interventions. 

During the first week of intervention, the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test 
Revised G was administered to all third grade students in the targeted classroom. One 
researcher took students individually into her resource room to administer the test. 

All third grade students took the STAR test to determine their zone of proximal 
development during the first week of the action research. The STAR test was a computer 
generated multiple-choice test taken individually at the computer. Once all students had 
taken the test, students were told their reading range and were instructed to check out 




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books in that reading range. Students were allowed to choose their own books within 
their established reading range. The students began checking out library books with 
guidance given by the researchers. Books in the classroom that were on the AR program 
were labeled, and the reading level was marked. Books were organized into labeled boxes 
so that students could easily determine the reading level of the book they were choosing. 

Time for sustained silent reading (SSR) was established. Two 20-minute periods 
were allowed daily for students to read silently, check out books, or take AR tests. 
Students were taught the SSR rules and were given reading logs to record the book titles 
during each reading period. A sample of the reading log used by students can be found in 
the Appendix A. 

When students had finished reading an Accelerated Reader book, they were 
expected to take a computer generated multiple-choice test on the content of the book. 
The students’ scores were recorded in the computer program, and students were given 
points based on the difficulty of the book and the number of questions answered 
correctly. Students were given point goals based on the results of the STAR test and the 
amount of time they were given by the classroom teacher for silent reading. 

During the first week in kindergarten, the AGS Early Screening Profile was given 
as a pretest. This was a screening device that showed readiness for kindergarten. It 
included the following subtests: verbal concepts, visual discrimination, logical relations, 
and basic school skills. Each of these tests was conducted on a one to one basis (teacher 
to student) and was administered verbally. 

During the second week in the targeted kindergarten, the AGS testing was 
completed and the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (pilot test) was begun. It was 




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administered as a pretest to determine the students’ abilities before the strategies were 
initiated. Also during this week, the kindergarten students were introduced to the Drop 
Everything And Read (DEAR) program. This strategy was implemented to expose 
students to books. Each day a ten-minute time period was set aside for students to look at 
or read books. 

School rewards and classroom rewards were organized in the third grade during 
the second week. A classroom reward system was set up for students who passed an AR 
test with an 80% or higher. Stickers were put on individual charts for every AR test 
passed. When students passed 10 tests, they were allowed to choose prizes from the 
“Book Bag.” When students filled the first chart, the researcher gave out coupons to a 
local restaurant, and students were taken there during their lunch period. School rewards 
were also announced for all students participating in the AR program throughout the 
school. Rewards were given for students who reached 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of 
their point goal. Students who reached 25% of their goal received an ice cream cone 
certificate from the principal. When they reached 50% of their goal, students received a 
free meal at Subway from the librarian. Students who reached 75% of their goal were 
invited to a special evening event, “Read in the Dark.” Those who attained 100% of their 
goal were allowed to travel to the Museum of Natural History in Chicago during a school 
day. 

The following week the ISEL testing continued in the targeted kindergarten 
classroom. The Accelerated Reader program was the second strategy introduced to the 
kindergarten students. This program began with the kindergarten teacher reading a book 
to the students once a week. Each student was asked five questions on a one to one basis 




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(teacher to student), and the students answered verbally. The objective of this program 
was to improve reading comprehension. The kindergarteners continued to work on 
D.E.A.R. time daily. 

A buddy reading program between the targeted third grade and the targeted 
kindergarten was introduced to provide good role models for oral reading, to improve 
listening, and comprehension. It was also hoped to enhance the older students’ reading 
ability. Each third grader from the targeted third grade classroom was paired with a 
kindergarten student from the targeted kindergarten classroom. The researcher brought 
books into the classroom for students to choose to read to their reading buddy. Once the 
students chose a book to read to their kindergarten buddies, they were given time to 
practice reading. They were encouraged to take it home to practice as well. The 
researchers spoke to the students about the importance of practicing for fluency and 
expression. Discussion was held about the importance of reading the book several times 
for adequate practice. The researchers provided demonstrations to show students what a 
good read aloud would look like and sound like. The buddy reading program was used 
throughout the intervention. 

During the third week of the interventions, researchers and students discussed 
ways to extend the reading experiences with their kindergarten buddies. Questions to ask 
about the story were suggested and discussed. Students were expected to use these 
questions when they had finished reading to their kindergarten buddies. 

Volunteers from the community began coming into the targeted third grade 
classroom during the fourth week of research to read with the more struggling readers 
during the SSR times. Volunteers were assigned to students whose reading levels, as 




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shown on the STAR test, were below grade level. Volunteers also asked questions about 
the book or helped the reader review the book before taking the AR test. 

As the intervention progressed, the researchers began bringing a variety of books 
of different reading levels into the classroom. Book talks were given on these books to 
encourage interest. Students also shared books they had read and liked. 

To involve parents as partners in reading and increase the amount of time that is 
spent reading, the researchers had planned to begin a home-to-school reading program by 
the fourth week of the intervention. The researchers found that with all the other 
interventions that were being implemented, the home-to-school program would have to 
be postponed. The kindergarten “Be a Star Reader” program was started during the sixth 
week of the intervention. A note was sent home on Fridays to be returned the following 
Friday with parents writing the book’s title and their signature after reading 10-15 
minutes to their children each evening. A sample of the “Be a Star Reader” form can be 
found in Appendix B. During the seventh week, information was sent home with the 
third graders regarding the “Read With Me Club.” Students were asked to read to a parent 
for 10 minutes every day, and parents were asked to sign the reading star chart to 
document the reading time. Charts were collected at the beginning of the next week, and 
the researchers counted the time parents and students read together. A sample of the 
reading charts can be found in Appendix C. Rewards and incentives were also set up to 
provide excitement and motivation for reading at home. A “Read With Me Club 25” was 
established for students who had recorded 25 parent-student reading sessions. Students 
would receive a certificate and would be allowed to eat lunch in the room with the 
teacher one day a week. 




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Researchers continued to guide students on activities to do with their kindergarten 
buddies when they had finished reading to them. Students made flashcards of letters and 
sight words that the kindergarten students were working on. Students encouraged then- 
buddies to find words they knew in the books. Buddies drew pictures of their favorite 
parts of the story. The kindergarteners read their letter booklets to the third graders. 

The SSR time was maintained throughout the intervention. Volunteers continued 
to read with students as needed. Students began earning the rewards that had been set up 
for them and this provided motivation for other students to attain these same rewards. 

The researchers continued to give book talks on books that were brought into the 
classroom from the learning center. This activity maintained interest and assisted those 
who had trouble choosing books from a wider selection. 

During the last two weeks of the intervention, kindergarteners began the AGS 
Early Screening Profile, which was used as a posttest and administered individually. The 
ISEL was also administered to the kindergarteners individually as a posttest. 

During the last week of the intervention, the third graders were given the 
Woodcock Reading Mastery Test Revised H as a posttest. This test was administered 
individually. The third graders also took the STAR test as a posttest. 

Presentation and Analysis of Results 
Data was collected at the end of the action research plan for analysis and 
comparison with data collected at the beginning of the project. The AGS Early Screening 
Profile results for the targeted kindergarten students were evaluated. Sixty-four percent of 
the targeted kindergarten students showed an increase in the cognitive language profile 




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between the pretest and the posttest. Twenty-nine percent of the kindergarteners showed 
a decrease between the pretest and the posttest. Data may be reviewed in Table 5. 



Table 5 

AG^Early Screening Profile 
Percentile Rank of Targetted Kindergarten 





Pretest 


Posttest 


S1 


39% 


63% 


S2 


66% 


84% 


S3 


21% 


47% 


S4 


68% 


42% 


S5 


61% 


97% 


S6 


77% 


81% 


S7 


10% 


37% 


S8 


61% 


42% 


S9 


47% 


92% 


S10 


34% 


55% 


S11 


50% 


39% 


S12 


50% 


23% 


S13 


61% 


82% 


S14 


39% 


66% 



The ISEL scores for the targeted kindergarten students were compared and 
analyzed for change. In each of the three subtests, there were meaningful gains noted. 

The letter recognition subtest went from 50% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the 
pretest to 86% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the posttest. Five of the fourteen 
students (36%) gained an average of 40 percentage points on the letter recognition 
subtest. The story listening subtest improved from 64% of the students scoring above 
50% in the pretest to 79% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the posttest. Scores of 
two students improved by 43 percentage points and 38 percentage points. The third 
subtest, word recognition, changed from 36% of the students scoring 50% or more in the 




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pretest to 86% of the students scoring 50% or more in the posttest. Two students made a 
gain of 89 percentage points from pretest to posttest. Comparison of pretest and posttest 
data is shown in Table 6. 

Tables 

ISEL Pretest and Posttest Results 
Percentage of Students Scoring 50% or More 



Alphabet Recog. Story Listening Word Recog 



Students 


Pretest 


Posttest 


Pretest 


Posttest 


Pretest 

# 


Posttest 


s1 


41% 


80% 


95% 


86% 


44% 


56% 


s2 


15% 


44% 


76% 


76% 


22% 


89% 


S3 


50% 


89% 


43% 


86% 


89% 


89% 


S4 


22% 


59% 


57% 


43% 


0% 


89% 


s5 


39% 


74% 


52% 


62% 


56% 


78% 


s6 


43% 


91% 


57% 


67% 


44% 


78% 


s7 


83% 


100% 


19% 


57% 


67% 


44% 


s8 


0% 


7% 


38% 


34% 


0% 


0% 


s9 


98% 


100% 


67% 


90% 


78% 


100% 


s10 


81% 


80% 


62% 


67% 


44% 


89% 


s11 


72% 


100% 


62% 


81% 


11% 


100% 


s12 


89% 


100% 


62% 


52% 


89% 


100% 


s13 


48% 


89% 


48% 


67% 


22% 


78% 


s14 


80% 


80% 


38% 


38% 


0% 


56% 




6-1 



.60 



Woodcock Reading Mastery Test results for the targeted third grade students were 
analyzed and compared for change. One student tested prior to intervention was not 
posttested because that student had moved from the targeted school district. Results from 
the pretest showed that 26.3% of students were at the 2.S-2.9 grade equivalent range on 
the word identification pretest, while only 5.6% of students were at that range on the 
posttest. The percentage of students in the 3.0 to 3.4 grade equivalent range went from 
26.3% on the pretest to 16.7% on the posttest. Students who scored at the 3.5 to 3.9 grade 
equivalent range increased from 10.5% to 22 %. No student scored in the 5.0 to 5.4 grade 
equivalent range on the pretest, but 16.7% of the students were at this level on the 
posttest. Word identification data is shown in Figure 1 . 



30 

25 

» 20 




10 

5 

0 




2.0-2.4 2^2^ 3.0-3.4 3^3^ 4.(Mv4 4^^ 5.0-5v4 

Grade Equivalents 



H Pretest B Posttest 



— — I ^ — I 1 1 

5^5.9 6.0^,4 6^.9 7.0 & 

Higher 



Figure 1. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the word identification subtest 
from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. 




65 



' 61 



Data from the word comprehension subtest, showed 41.6% of the targeted 
students were between the 1.5 and 2.9 grade equivalent range on the pretest. Posttest 
results showed only 1 1% of the students in that range. The percentage of students who 
began the intervention in the 3.5 to 3.9 grade equivalent range went from 15.8% to 33%. 
Before the interventions, 10% of the targeted class had scored above the 3.5 to 3.9 range. 
Posttest results showed 27.9% of the students were at this level. This data is shown in 
Figure 2. 



35 -I 



30 



25 

10 

o 

1*20 

C 

Cl 

a 15 

o 

CL 

10 




H Pretest @ Posttest 







m 



1 *™*-r 1 1 , 

1^1 2 . 0 - 2.4 2 ^ 2 ^ 3 . 0 - 3.4 3 ^ 3 ^ 4.0-4A 4JSAJ9 S.0-SA SS-SS 6^.4 6 ^^ 7.0 & 

Higher 

Grade Equivalents 

Figure 2. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the word comprehension subtest 
from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. 



The third part of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test that was analyzed was the 
passage comprehension subtest. Twenty-six percent of the targeted students scored at the 
2.0 to 2.4 grade equivalent range on the pretest, nearly a year below grade level. No 



er|c 



66 



62 



students scored at this level on the posttest. Pretest data showed 21 % of the class just 
slightly below grade level, at the 2.5 to 2.9 range. Following interventions, 5.6% of the 
class was in this range. In the 3.0 to 3.4 grade equivalent range, which would have 
indicated students reading at grade level or slightly above, the percentage of students 
moved from 3 1.6% to 50% from pretest to posttest. At the time of the posttest, 44.5% of 
the class was above grade level as compared to 20.5% at the time of the pretest on 
passage comprehension. This data can be found in Figure 3. 




Figure 3. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the passage comprehension 
subtest from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test 

The STAR Reading test data was also analyzed and compared to pretest data. Of 
the students pretested on the STAR, one moved from the district during the action 
research. Grade placement at the time of the pretest was 3.0, and the grade placement at 




67 



63 



the time of the posttest was 3.4. Students scored an average grade equivalent of 2.7 on the 
pretest. The average grade equivalent score for the posttest was 3.8. This was a 1 . 1 grade 
equivalent change during the four-month intervention period. Data showed 53% of the 
targeted students were reading below grade level as indicated by the STAR reading test 
pretest. Posttest data revealed that 16.6% of the students were now in this level. In the 
pretest analysis, 26% were above grade level. The posttest indicated that 55.5% were now 
reading above grade level. Test information is shown in Table 7. 

Table? 

Star Reading Pretest and Posttest - Third Grade Scores 

Percent Distri bution of G rade Equivalent Scores 

Pretest Posttest 

Grade Equivalents % Students % Students 



1 . 5 - 1.9 


26 % 


0 % 


2 . 0 - 2.4 


16 % 


5 . 60 % 


2 . 5 - 2.9 


11 % 


11 % 


3.0 - 3.4 


21 % 


27 . 80 % 


3.5 - 3.9 


5 % 


16 . 70 % 


4 . 0 - 4.4 


5 % 


11 % 


4 . 5 - 4.9 


11 % 


5 . 60 % 


5.0 - 5.4 


0 % 


5 . 60 % 


5.5 - 5.9 


5 % 


5 . 60 % 


6 . 0 - 6.4 


0 % 


11 % 



One student went from a grade equivalent of 1.9 to 2.8. While still below grade 
level, this student showed a growth equal to 9 months. Another student moved from a 
grade equivalent of 1.9 to 3.1, which was nearly grade level. One student who had no 
record of AR tests during the previous year had taken and passed 25 tests during the 
action research. The average score was 87%. Another student who had only taken 1 AR 




68 



64 



test the past year had taken and passed 2 1 tests by the end of the intervention, with an 
average of 85.5% correct. The average level of book this student was reading during the 
intervention was 3.4. No student had read and passed fewer than 20 books during the 
project. The total number of books read and passed by students during the intervention 
was 736, as compared to 485 during the whole previous year, a 51.75% increase. 

School-to-home reading data was analyzed. One student was not allowed to 
participate, however he did say that he read every night for 20 minutes as part of his 
homework. One student who recorded 100 days of reading at home made grade 
equivalent gains of 1.9 to 3. 1. That student also read and passed 27 AR books during this 
time. Another student who recorded 75 days of reading at home made grade equivalent 
gains of 1.8 to 4.2. That student also read and passed 43 AR books during the action 
research. All but one student recorded at least 25 days of reading at home. 

The buddy reading program was designed to promote role modeling, increase 
practice, and improve comprehension and fluency. Reflections written by students 
documented the students’ perception of the program. Several students wrote, “I learned to 
use expression because they listen better.” One student felt that she became better at 
“reading out’ because she used to mumble when she read. Students wrote that they liked 
it when their buddy listened to them read. Many students commented on the stories and 
how interesting they were, not just to their buddy, but also to themselves. One participant 
wrote, “The stories are neat because I have never read those books.” Third grade students 
found it interesting to see what books their buddies liked. Finally, one student wrote, “I 
feel like a teacher! I’m thinking about being a teacher.” 




69 



65 



Conclusions and Recommendations 

Increasing the reading achievement of the targeted kindergarten and third grade 
students was the objective of the action research. Results of the Woodcock Reading 
Mastery Test for the targeted third grade students indicated that students were achieving 
at a higher level than when the action research began. Grade equivalent levels as 
evidenced by the STAR test showed growth for many students. Students feel good about 
reading to their younger buddies, confident in their ability, and look forward to that time 
each week. Students spend considerably more time reading self-selected books during the 
school day, and consequently the total number of books read by these students is greater 
than had been read in the previous year. Some students increased the amount of time they 
spent reading outside of the classroom through the home to school program. These results 
indicated that the objective was accomplished. 

The results of the AGS Early Screening Profile showed that there were gains and 
losses in the cognitive language profile. Since the purpose of the AGS is to screen to 
determine readiness for kindergarten, the researchers felt that this test was not an 
appropriate measure to be used as a pretest and posttest. 

The researchers feel that the increased use of the Accelerated Reader program and 
the greater use of classroom time for the practice of reading self-selected material were 
the two interventions that contributed most to the increased achievement of the targeted 
third students. Since these students were, at least, somewhat familiar with the AR 
program, the students were quite interested in participating in the program. Using the 
computer to take quizzes proved to be very motivating for most students. Meeting goals 
and earning rewards were also incentives for students to continue reading. The 




70 



66 



researchers suggest that a motivational reward system be established along with the use 
of the AR program. 

The use of the AR program at the kindergarten level is not easy to implement 
since the stpries must be read aloud to the students, and then questions must be read 
aloud to each student. The researchers would recommend that this program not be 
attempted without an aide or parent helper. 

The researchers took care to build the time allowed for SSR gradually. This eased 
the students into the longer sessions they were expected to use for reading. The 
researchers recommend a gradual growth to the 40 minutes provided daily and to further 
break that time into two shorter sessions of at least 15 to 20 minutes each. The 
researchers observed a definite growth in the amount of time students could be actively 
engaged in reading throughout the action research. Giving the students 25 minutes or 
more to read during SSR is too long. The students looked forward to SSR time each day 
and asked for it if some other activity interrupted the usual time. 

Students were given extra help choosing books. Even though students were 
given a reading range and were only allowed to choose books in this range, they were 
often overwhelmed by the choices before them. They would choose a book only to look 
at it briefly, say they didn’t like it, and go searching for another. To improve then- 
selection skills, the researchers gave the students having the most trouble a set of five to 
six books to choose from. This strategy helped to reduce the amount of indecision and the 
exchange of reading material. The researchers recommend a similar approach to the 
selection of reading material for those students who could not make appropriate choices 
on their own. Many students, particularly the lower ability readers, were interested in 




71 



67 



picture books that could be finished during one session. As the action research 
progressed, so did the length of the books that were read. Several students who only read 
picture books at the beginning of the action research were reading short chapter books 
appropriate for their grade level by the end of the project. However, students were never 
discouraged from reading a picture book in their reading range. 

Researchers often brought in books from the learning center to supplement the 
classroom library. Students’ interest in the books was heightened when the researchers 
talked about the books. Other students were given the opportunity to tell about good 
books they had read. The researchers feel that allowing time for the sharing and 
promoting of good books helps to keep the students’ interest level high. 

It appeared at the introduction of the sustained silent reading program that there 
would be several students, especially students who were reading below grade level, who 
would not be engaged in actual reading. The researchers recommend that to maximize 
reading practice during SSR, a volunteer program be established within the classroom. 
The researchers had at least one, and sometimes two volunteers, reading with the students 
with the lowest reading levels during each SSR session. This helped to insure that the 
reader was on task and not simply looking at pictures and flipping through pages. The 
volunteers were to assist the students in improving their oral reading accuracy, fluency, 
and comprehension. Volunteers were encouraged to pronounce unknown words, discuss 
vocabulary, and ask questions as they listened to the student read. Students enjoyed 
reading with an adult volunteer and often asked to read with someone. The researchers 
recommend that this type of support to lower ability readers be given during some of the 
SSR time to get the most benefit for those students. Providing time during the school day 




72 



68 



to practice reading is a productive use of time. When provisions are made to keep the 
reluctant reader engaged in the process, all readers can benefit from SSR. 

The home-to-school program did not work as well as the researchers would have 
liked. The students who needed the most practice were not motivated to read with 
someone at home. The researchers tried to make the record keeping for parents as simple 
as possible, and yet the response was low. The importance and value of reading with a 
parent at home was discussed during parent teacher conferences, and parents agreed with 
the importance of this practice. Yet in the two weeks following conferences, the number 
of responses went down. This lack of parental support was disappointing. While the 
researchers feel a home reading program is necessary to make the most improvement in 
reading achievement, it is difficult to implement and maintain. The researchers feel that 
there are too many variables beyond their control to make this intervention successful. 

The researchers feel that the buddy reading program was successful in motivating 
third grade readers to develop fluency and expression. Research has shown that increased 
fluency helps comprehension. Posttest scores show an increase in comprehension in the 
third grade students. Third grade students who participated were excited to be role 
models for the kindergarteners. The program helped to build self-esteem, especially in the 
less able readers. The researchers noticed the impact on third graders’ attitudes toward 
reading. The researchers recommend that students keep the same buddy each session. 
This helps build strong relationships between the buddies. Friendships form on both 
sides. Third grade students helped their buddies with sight words, alphabet recognition, 
and story elements. The researchers would have liked to incorporate more reading 
activities for the buddies to do together, but the time constraints prohibited more 




i 3 



69 

interaction between the kindergarten and third grade students. Several parents and 
teachers commented positively on the program. 

The researchers feel that the interventions of the Accelerated Reader program 
coupled with the extended silent sustained reading time and the buddy reading program 
have meaningfully impacted both the kindergarten and third grade students. The entire 
school has been implementing the Accelerated Reader program and extended SSR. It has 
been obvious to the researchers that these programs have increased the reading 
throughout the school. Even the special education students are finding success in the 
Accelerated Reader program. Many students are ahead of the goals set by the AR 
program. 

As teachers who believe that reading is the most important thing we teach, the 
researchers feel that it can often be an unbreakable circle for those who do not succeed 
initially. They do not read well, so they do not practice, so they do not read well. It is up 
to the school to break that vicious cycle, and the interventions that were used in this 
research project appear to have been effective. 




74 



70 



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ERIC 



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79 



Appendices 




80 



Appendix A 
Student Reading Log 



Nome 



MY READING LOG 

WWWWWWWWWWWWWWTTWWWT 



Date 


Author 


Title 


Poges 


















































































































































- '•* 
























_ 




81 



76 



Appendix B 

“Be a Star Reader” Form 





82 



77 



Appendix C 
Reading Star Chart 





83 



0 



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IV. REFERRAL OF ERIC TO COPYRIGHT/REPRODUCTION RIGHTS HOLDER: 

add^es^ reproduction release is held by someone other than the addressee, please provide the appropriate name and 

Name: ^ 

Address: ■ 



V. WHERE TO SEND THIS FORM: 



Send this form to the following ERIC Clearinghouse: 


ERIC/REC 




2805 E. Tenth Street 




Smith Research Center, 150 




Indiana University 




Bloomington, IN 47408 



However, if solicited by the ERIC Facility, or if making an unsolicited contribution to ERIC, return this form (and the document being 
contributed) to: 



^j'“"F-088 (Rev. 2/2003) 



ERIC 



ERIC Processing and Reference Facility 
4483-A Forbes Boulevard 
Lanham, Maryland 20706 



Telephone: 
Toll Free: 
FAX: 
e-mail: 
WWW: 



301-552-4200 

800-799-3742 

301-552-4700 

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http://ericfacility.org